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Kentucky officials want to remove lower Ohio River from list of mercury-impaired waters

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LOUISVILLE, Kentucky — Kentucky officials are trying to get the lower half of the Ohio River removed from a list of state waterways that warn people against eating fish possibly contaminated with mercury. Still, experts disagree on just how safe it is to eat fish from the river.

The state's Division of Water submitted a proposal this month to get 370 miles of the river off the warning list, WDRB-TV reports (http://bit.ly/1ezwRXX). That area stretches from Jefferson County west to where the Ohio flows into the Mississippi River.

The Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission reported last year that the average levels of mercury in fish tissue sampled in 19 river pools all fell below dangerous levels. The same was not the case for the river's water samples, as more than 10 percent of the samples taken had higher-than-allowed levels of mercury.

Agency environmental scientist Randy Payne said that fish tissue is used to measure whether mercury levels in fish are safe for human consumption.

"Those data tell us that the fish are below the criterion (and) are indeed safe to consume based on those results," he said.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the mercury that people absorb when eating contaminated fish has been linked to neurological problems in infants and children.

Judy Petersen, executive director of the Kentucky Waterways Alliance, said she is skeptical that the mercury levels in the fish have become safer.

"I'm pretty concerned about it, because as far as I know we have no new data that says that the mercury in fish tissue is getting any less in the Ohio River," she said. "As a matter of fact, everything I've seen points the other direction."


Information from: WDRB-TV, http://www.fox41.com

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